Beyonce Confuses My Idea Of FeminismAugust 22nd, 2014 by Corrina Antrobus
Corrina Antrobus’ regular round up of the best things to happen to women in film and TV (because sometimes in a world with a problematic relationship with gender we all need a little reminding, right?)
Why Beyoncé Confuses My Idea Of FeminismEvery time I think I get feminism, Beyoncé comes along and completely throws me. I perform all sorts of facial acrobats watching her music videos as I go from pumping my fist in appreciation, to wanting to find the nearest piece of rotting fruit to hurl at the screen. I’m down with this new wave of feminism. The one that’s not ashamed to admit that cosying up to our fellas at night is quite nice. As long as ‘him-indoors’ keeps remembering how many sugars we have in our tea and doesn’t sleep with our best mate we’re happy to reciprocate our love with a cooked meal and a sock-sorting session because we’ve picked someone who would do it in return.
This is why I’m not bristled by Beyoncé’s constant reminder of how besotted she is with hubby Jay-Z. Beyoncé unapologetically lampoons her marital status at us as if we’re immigration lawyers and Jay just rocked up from Cuba with no visa, and good for her. She shouldn’t have to hide her affections if he deserves it. If she wants to brand herself Mrs Carter, fine. She’s Crazy In Love and is proud of her wedlock shackles.
Paper, Scissors, Stone – the key to all good relationships.I also have no problem with her warbling about her sexual adventures (if you don’t know what she means when she sings ‘surfboard’, Google it. But not at work). Women like sex, why shouldn’t we have a sing-song about it? This year, Beyoncé told Vogue mag she’s a ‘modern day feminist’ however, it’s confusing that this same feminist, that stands mighty and to be feared with the back of her left hand swiveling at us like she’s trying to communicate to passing ships, then abruptly pirouettes to reveal fishnet-clad buttocks and demands we spank our sights on its twerking glory.
Okay, females should be allowed to enjoy their bodies, and in the same Vogue interview Bey says how much she ‘enjoys being a woman’, but there’s little argument in the fact that all the flesh-heavy maneuvers that come from the average Beyoncé video (Partition in particular), is a self-objectifying act. When Beyoncé gets her kit off and slithers around like an angry python, all the marvel of her talent and righteousness vanish and she plummets to being human Viagra. Watch the video for Bow Down (the song that features author Chimamanda Ngozi’s feminist manifesto) with the sound down, and she’s just another woman making adolescent boys need a change of pants. It’s as if each piece of clothing dropped is a breadcrumb leading us back to where we started.
Jesus walked on water, Beyoncé prefers to sit.We could be here all week chewing over if women who use their bodies for show-and-tell can be feminists, and I’m no stranger to a push-up bra so let’s leave it there. What’s less questionable is the ‘eat the cake Anna May’ line in Drunk In Love. That was poor. Just so you know it’s in reference to Ike Turner’s violence against Tina Turner, not a demand to try a Mr Kipling tart. You can’t seriously call yourself a feminist and dance along to lyrics that reminisce domestic savagery. There’s no poetry in that. I suspect Tina, who paved the way for talented black women, struck Beyoncé off her Christmas card list. Who would blame her? It was carelessly unsisterly.
Ok. Who farted?Talking of unsisterly, calling us ‘bitches’ in Bow Down is something we could have less of. It’s far less confusing to lead by example and eradicate the term altogether rather than embrace a word used so often to demoralise us. I get it, Bey’s using the term to distinguish between good, and not-so-good women. But the lines are too blurred when it comes to separating the two and who made her the judge on who sits in which camp? There are plenty of alternative, gender-blind adjectives. Come on, Beyoncé – you look like the creative type. Beyoncé is a force of nature. Blindingly beautiful with a voice that could melt the heart of Hitler, plus she must be smart. She’s managed to maintain full control over her personal brand without the tabloids trashing her profile. Even when her little sister Salonge Knowles went all Chun-Li on Jay-Z in a lift, Bey stood, unfazed still as Napoleon on his column and we still don’t know what the hell it was all about. Personal life aside, she also somehow released a whole album – with accompanying videos – without a single leak. It just appeared. Just like that. The abrupt, unceremonious explosion of her work was a PR stunt in itself. Beyoncé comes with a dialogue. Her gloss reflects a flawless beauty the media want women to aspire to, the one that sells us a million products and makes us skip dessert. Yet somehow she manages to be compassionate to the strive of ‘perfection’ without much too irony. We accept her in our camp thanks to videos like Pretty Hurts, and Run The World makes us want to join the Women’s Legion. But in the same blink of an eye, she makes us want to do 1000 lunges so we can fit into a pair of batty-riders. It’s all so confusing, and must be to young women, and boys, who are trying to understand how best to subscribe to feminism.
Blue Ivy loved playing with mummy’s eyeliner
I guess we must remember that we can’t all be Beyoncé, she’s got a privilege that 99% of us don’t; a sniper-like PR team, more beauty deals that Superdrug, an army of bodyguards and more money that God. Her world is different and on planet Beyoncé feminism is warped. It’s not quite the one us Primark pant-wearing, Oyster card-swiping normos could possibly understand. I hope she appreciates her privilege – I appreciate mine as a western woman. I can drive a car, down a pint, walk the street without a male chaperone and can expect that on my home turf, I have less chance of brutal violence or harassment being used against me because of my sex. Tragically, many other parts of the globe cannot boast this.
Mrs Carter? I’m happy to have you on our team but don’t put pins in the road we’re trying to smooth. How about raising your dialogue – not just your top? When you talk the world listens, especially the girls and boys. But I won’t hold you responsible for sculpting the youth’s depiction of feminism. If I’m blessed with kids I’ll teach them the ways of the world through my eyes, not yours. I know you’re a pop-star and not a politician but you clearly have something to say – It’s great, you used Ngozi’s feminist manifesto in a song, but what’s your manifesto other than ‘‘I enjoy being a woman’? Maybe once it’s clearer on where you really stand my confused feet can find your rhythm for a less awkward dance.
You can read more via Corrina Antrobus on Twitter
Watch Chimamanda Ngozi’s TED Talk, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ here.
Watch that Partition music video (explicit version) here.
Read the several times gone viral poet Hollie McNish on ‘Why Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Reference to Anna Mae in Drunk in Love is Too Much’ here.